Ketone supps and physical performance

We’ve had a couple more studies on the various ketone supps: two esters (D-b-hydroxybutyrate-R 1,2-Butanediol Monoester and R,S-Butanediol Diacetoacetate) and one beta-Hydroxybutyrate sodium and potassium salts (KetoForce). We’ll call them Clarke, Burke, and Stewart so I don’t get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome typing them out each time. Technically, b-hydroxybutyrate isn’t really a ketone, but whatevs.

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“Stewart” (this is actually a blend of the sodium “Na” and potassium “K” [not shown] salts)


Two studies on Stewart

Nutritional ketone salts increase fat oxidation but impair high-intensity exercise performance in healthy adult males (O’Malley et al., 2017)

“Ten healthy, recreationally active men.” The participants did a brief warm-up then a 150 km cycling time trial after receiving 24 g Stewart or salt-matched placebo.  Controlling for salt was cool, but Stewart has about as 5 kcal/g, so the placebo could’ve controlled for that somehow, with either fat or carb, or something… (probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway)

Results: blood beta-hydroxybutyrate reached about 1 mM, power output declined 7% and it took the keto group about 45 seconds longer to complete the time trial.

Oral beta-hydroxybutyrate salt fails to improve 4-minute cycling performance following submaximal exercise (Rodger et al., 2017)

“Highly trained cyclists.” Similar study design as McSwiney’s — drain the tank with 90 minutes cycling at 80% max then 4 minute maximal performance test. Same dose as above in 2 divided doses. Same issue with the control group.

Results: blood beta-hydroxybutyrate reached ~0.6 mM and there was a trivial (non-significant) increase in power. This is actually in line with my interpretation of McSwiney regarding the decline in power output before and after draining the tank; ketoadaptation and all that jazz.


One study on Burke

Ketone diester ingestion impairs time-trial performance in professional cyclists (Leckey et al., 2017)

“Internationally competitive elite cyclists.” Two doses of 20 g Burke then a 20-minute warm-up followed by a 31 km time-trial. Non-caloric placebo control, whereas Burke is estimated 4.7 kcal/g. They were well-fed and caffeinated.

Results: beta-hydroxybutyrate reached ~1.1 mM, time-trial took 2% longer, and power was reduced 3.7%.


One study on Clarke

Nutritional ketosis alters fuel preference and thereby endurance performance in athletes (Cox et al., 2016)

“High performance athletes.” This study was different: one group got a drink that was 40% Clarke and 60% carbs (by calories), the other drink was 100% carbs. Calorie-controlled. They cycled for an hour at 75% max (to drain the tank), then 30-minute time trial.

Results: this is the first one that worked. beta-hydroxybutyrate reached 2-3 mM and they made it 2% further during the time-trial.

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For my interpretation of these studies and an  explanation why I think the different keto supps had different effects (or if you just like what I do and want to support it), head over to Patreon! Three bucks a month gets you full access to all articles and there are many other options. It’s ad-free and you can cancel if it sucks 🙂

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  • John Lushefski

    Is cycling always tested because of convenience? I do lifting, sprinting, and dance, and it’s hard to take away anything useful when tests are done on cyclists (often amateur) or casual lifters.

    Whenever I am planning to go for a personal deadlift record, I eat lots of coconut milk/fat along with fish or whatever. I can’t come up with a good reason why it works, but my lifting performance always increases. Unfortunately, eating coconut soup or curry for every meal is tiresome.

    • cycle ergometer is a good way to test multiple different aspects of physical performance, it’s accurate & reproducible, and there’s no learning curve because every athlete knows how to ride a bike

      • John Lushefski

        Yes, so for someone trying to break a 10.5 100m or triple bodyweight deadlift, I can’t take much away from cycling performance results. The nervous system strain of cycling/leg extension (another common performance measure) versus a deadlift/100m is so small.

        • Wingate performance & peak power output will correlate better than endurance time trial assessments, but I see your point.